Theatre Review – The Cemetery Club

May 12 2010 | By More

* * *

Ida (Kate Potter) and Sam (John McColl) in Leitheatre's The Cemetary Club

Church Hill Theatre
Review by Thom Dibdin

There is gentle comedy up at the Church Hill Theatre this week, played with enough edge from Leitheatre to stop their production of Ivan Menchell’s hit comedy becoming mired in saccharine sentimentality.

Kate Potter plays Ida, a Jewish widow from Queens, New York, whose retiring exterior hides a woman who would quite like to get over all that grieving, thank you very much. Every month, she and her best friends Doris (Moira Macdonald) and Lucille (Irene Robb) visit the graves of their husbands in Forest Hills Cemetery.

If their weekly games of canasta continue a friendship forged by the three couples over their long, prematurely ended, marriages, the cemetery visits are more of a cause for antagonism.

Only Macdonald’s uptight Doris really wants to continue the monthly ritual. She sits by her husband’s headstone, bitching about the cemetery groundkeepers’ upkeep of the plot, and remembering the good times the two of them had when he was alive.

There’s no such looking back for Irene Robb’s well-rounded out Lucille. She has already moved on from the death of her not so much lamented husband. His philandering and lack of attention during his lifetime clearly do not warrant her attention after his death.

Robb flounces beautifully. It is easy to believe that she is making herself look younger by the year – and any suspicions concerning her over-elaborate descriptions to the long-suffering Ida of the men who pay her too much attention are born out when they bump into local butcher, Sam, in the cemetery one Sunday. It is clearly Lucille’s own predatory instincts which are sharpened, not those of her gentleman admirers.

John McColl adds a real sparkle to the production as Sam. If he has the ability to flash the wry humour straight back at the women, he is also able to give them the space to make their characters grow.

If there are plenty of fiery wisecracks for the cast to nip back and forth, there are moments where Phyllis Ross’s direction doesn’t quite give the production the dynamic impact it could have. Largely static by necessity – it is set in Ida’s apartment and at the gravesides – there are times when the production needs to get its energy from the performances themselves.

Unfortunately there is an unevenness about the casting. Potter’s thoughtful Ida has depth as well as a spiky side to equal Lucille’s. Robb overcomes the occasional prompt to give her ebullient Lucille an emotional as well as a fun-loving edge. Macdonald, however, has less success in finding anything beyond Doris’ rather tedious, sad old exterior.

The production makes good use of Stephen Hajducki’s stage design, which he lights very effectively, as it moves without too much effort between cemetery and apartment. Carol Jeffreys makes a well-judged appearance as Mildred, another predatory friend of the trio. And if the accents are not absolutely consistent, they rarely grate.

All told, a production which could do with a bit more bite but which provides a thoroughly entertaining evening out as it moves from the gentle first half towards an ending that has a bit of bite to it.

Run ends Saturday

Leitheatre Website

Tags: , , ,

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Susan Wales says:

    I agree with the rating. The production was generally very good with beliveable characterisations and good teamwork. It was a rare opportunity for recycled teenagers to have meaty roles. The set was smashing and the scene changes effective, but I thought a couple of the blackouts were unnecessarily long for the costume changes involved. Two of the characters (at separate times) stood facing the audience while conversing with the character behind them. There seemed no logical reason for this. That apart it was a very enjoyable production up to Leitheatre’s high standard.